Would you like to try a little something different this Halloween, or even have a special, authentically designed outfit ready for Chinese New Year parties? This beautiful costume was put together in just a day or two from things I had around my home, but there was NO sewing involved, and you can make it up from items you have now or just gathering a few components at your local fabric store. The research for the look did take a few days, however, I am giving you the benefit of the research without your spending hours having to do it yourself. You will also be able to put this together literally with a few straight pins and safety pins. The only part that may take time to do it the make-up; just leave yourself at least an hour for make-up and hair, which is best done after you put on the costume (just lay a towel or sheet over your lap to keep yourself clean). Choose your colors and start coordinating the pieces (My palette was pink, lavender, pale green, and white)!
This costume is taken from the Tang Dynasty in ancient China, 618-907 AD, and is fashioned along the lines of those worn by court ladies for day-time wear. The clothes were lovely and flowing, the women encouraged to be plump and rosy-cheeked, not thin and willowy as usual, and the outfits were actually very comfortable, as well as quite beautiful! I will give you the main components in a list, so you can get the pieces together; then tell you know how to assemble the whole outfit.
- Soft white blouse, preferably beaded or embroidered, with long sleeves
- Long full skirt with Asian print on it (to be worn across the arms and shoulders) for sleeves
- Pastel colored heavier fabric for the main part of the dress (pale green in the photo)
- Petticoat to be worn under the outfit
- Sheer floral fabric (about 3 yards) to be tucked & draped in front and trailed in back
- Embroidered panel
- Long sheer white curtain panel (for shawl)
- Scarf belt, silk flower bouquet
- Fan, pearl jewelry, waist charms
- Flower for hair, chopsticks, crystal necklace for headpiece
The white blouse goes on first, then the petticoat (a simple slip or a cotton petticoat with a row or two of ruffles). In the photo I used a pale leaf green fabric with same-color embroidered leaves-bought at a sale a couple of years before at Hancock fabrics. Fold the fabric in neat, horizontal pleats and pin the pleats on both sides (pleats go in the front and sides only), then put it around your waist and safety-pin it to close. The embroidered panel is one you can get at any Asian market, World Market or even the local flea market (people frame them or make pillow cases out of them)-this is pinned to the front. The scarf is twisted then tied around the waist (which will keep the heavier fabric from slipping), then the bouquet pinned to the scarf. The charms hanging from the scarf belt are simply long necklaces with interesting charms on them-if you have something that looks like jade, ebony, pearl or crystal, that’s the best choice-there should be at least two.
The sheer floral fabric is draped around from the back, brought up front and tucked and pinned behind the belt-it should form a long, flowing, delicate train in back and graceful hanging ends in front. The Asian print skirt (mine was medium green printed on pale green): put the waist hole behind your head and place your arms through it to form the flowing sleeves, just like you would putting on a jacket. The sheer white curtain panel is draped around the shoulders, then loosely looped over the lower arms-this imitates all those sheer, flying scarves you see in Chinese paintings on the women!
The make-up is pale and frosty around the eyes, with a dark line along the upper lashes to give the whole an Asian look–for the fold of the eye and under the brow use a shimmery pearl shadow. The hair is a simple soft bun on top of the head, with a big, open flower in front of it. I picked up the chopsticks in China but you can find the proper ones for this at any Asian food market or World Market. I hung chandelier earrings off the ends to give them an ornamental look and used the matching necklace draped over the bun and down in front for a headpiece. The make-up designs for Tang Dynasty women can be found on Youtube, specifically here and here.
I won the costume contest at the Savannah College of Art and Design, during the Chinese New Year Festival celebration, with this costume! Be careful when you are walking and you will have to watch that nobody steps on your train,–but, this is a very impressive looking costume that will get you photographed a lot and maybe even bring you a First Prize of your own!